Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose their density and weaken. Spine osteoporosis can cause serious complications, such as fractures and stenosis. However, there are ways to manage it.

Spine osteoporosis treatment may include diet and lifestyle changes, exercise, and medication to help prevent further bone loss.

Keep reading to learn more about spine osteoporosis, including the symptoms, causes, and treatments.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Osteoporosis is a condition that occurs when bone breaks down faster than the body replaces it. Bone density decreases, resulting in weaker, more fragile bones.

Spine osteoporosis is when this loss of density affects the bones that make up the spine, which are known as vertebrae. These bones may be more prone to fractures.

Osteoporosis is not fatal on its own, but the injuries and complications a person may experience as a result could be serious.

The severity of spine osteoporosis depends on how advanced the condition is. In some cases, doctors diagnose the condition early, and treatment stops the bone loss.

However, for others, spine osteoporosis can result in vertebral compression fractures, which can lead to pain, disability, and changes in the shape or height of the spine.

Osteoporosis in itself does not cause symptoms. Many people with the condition do not realize they have it until they break a bone.

The symptoms of a spinal fracture can include:

  • sudden back pain
  • an increase in pain when a person stands or walks
  • a decrease in pain when a person lies down
  • limited ability to move the spine
  • height loss over time
  • changes in the spine’s shape
  • decreased mobility

The main cause of spine osteoporosis is aging. As people age, their bone density naturally decreases.

Many other factors can increase the chances of developing spine osteoporosis, too. These include:

  • Sex: Females are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than males. Scientists believe this is because females have lower peak bone mass, smaller bones, and earlier onset of bone loss.
  • Hormones: Females with low estrogen, such as those in menopause, and males with low testosterone are at higher risk.
  • Bone size: People who naturally have smaller bones are at higher risk of osteoporosis.
  • Family history: Some research indicates that people who have at least one parent with osteoporosis might be at higher risk of developing it themselves.
  • Diet: A lack of vitamin D, calcium, or protein could contribute to osteoporosis.
  • Alcohol and smoking: Chronic heavy alcohol intake and smoking raise the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Other medical conditions: Health conditions that affect the hormones, a person’s ability to absorb nutrients, or that cause nutritional deficiencies can play a role in osteoporosis. Rheumatoid arthritis, some types of cancer, and HIV/AIDs also have links to the condition.
  • Medication: Several medications can increase osteoporosis risk, including steroids, hormone therapies for cancer, and proton pump inhibitors.

Although anyone can develop osteoporosis, research has shown that Asian and non-Hispanic white women are generally at higher risk of developing osteoporosis than other groups.

Doctors usually diagnose spine osteoporosis as part of routine screening for osteoporosis. During the screening, a doctor may ask questions about a person’s potential risk factors for the condition, such as what medications they take.

The doctor may also carry out a physical exam, examining a person’s height, balance, gait, changes in posture, or mobility.

Next, a doctor will conduct a bone mineral density test. The score can tell them if a person has osteoporosis. The most common test is dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, which involves a doctor running a low-level X-ray scanner over a person’s body. It is brief and painless.

Treatment for spine osteoporosis may involve a combination of medications, diet, and lifestyle changes.


These medications work by slowing bone loss, increasing bone density, or both. The options include:

If a preexisting medication could be contributing to osteoporosis, a doctor may also suggest changing the dose, stopping the medication, or finding an alternative.


A balanced diet is important for bone health. Calcium and vitamin D are particularly important. The body cannot absorb calcium without enough vitamin D, and without enough calcium in a person’s diet, they begin to lose bone mass.

People can get calcium from:

People can get enough vitamin D from safe sunlight exposure. However, some people may find this more difficult than others. For example, people who cannot get outside easily or who live in cold climates may not get enough.

To get more vitamin D, people can get some from certain foods, such as oily fish and fortified cereals. Some people may also need to take a supplement. People can ask their doctor about this.


Physical movement such as exercise can stimulate new bone growth or slow bone loss. Exercise also helps with maintaining muscle strength and balance, which helps reduce the risk of falls.

Doctors may recommend:

However, it is important to avoid sudden twisting or jerking of the spine, as this may cause fractures.

Alcohol and smoking

If a person smokes, considering cutting down or quitting can be helpful. People can do this via a smoking cessation program or by calling the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) free coaching service hotline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

It’s also important that people with osteoporosis limit alcohol consumption. If a person finds this difficult, they can speak with a doctor or mental health professional about getting support.

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about spine osteoporosis.

Is spine osteoporosis reversible?

Spine osteoporosis is not fully reversible, but with treatment, bone loss may stop getting worse.

Is walking good for spine osteoporosis?

Walking can help a person stay active, improve their balance, and maintain muscle strength. Some health organizations also recommend it as a way to improve bone density, but some research indicates that walking alone does not seem to reduce bone loss in the spine effectively.

What is the life expectancy for spine osteoporosis?

Spine osteoporosis does not directly impact life expectancy, but fractures might. A 2015 study found that people with an osteoporosis diagnosis had an increased risk of death due to their increased risk of fractures.

Spine osteoporosis causes the bones in a person’s spine to become brittle, leaving them vulnerable to fracturing. Medical treatment can help slow or stop bone loss. This may include taking medications, making dietary changes, getting enough vitamin D, and exercising.

Spine osteoporosis does not cause symptoms until a person breaks a bone. If a person suspects they could be at risk, it’s recommended that they speak with a doctor about screening.